Sunday, September 24, 2006

Roasting Peppers

Saturday, at the Farmer's Market, I picked up a bunch of fall peppers. For a party, I thought I'd roast peppers in all kinds of colors -- green, red, purple, yellow, orange, and multicolored red/green, green/purple. If you've never made this simple treat, it's easy, flavorful, and looks a lot harder than it is.

First, clean and dry as many bell peppers as you wish to roast. For an entire platter with sliced goat cheese, I roasted six peppers. Some people go ahead and halve them and seed them at this point. Others roast the pepper whole. (I did the latter.)

Put your whole peppers (or halves) on a greased cookie sheet. I use extra virgin olive oil, but be prepared to work your oven fan overtime -- or disconnect your smoke alarm. (I have to do the latter.) Using a basting brush, coat each pepper (or each side of each half) in EVOO, also.

Fire up the broiler and put the pan inside. If you can use an outdoor grill, the flavor is better, but indoors is just fine, too. Just put the tray with the peppers in the over and broil until the skin on the peppers starts to blacken (about 5 minutes). Turn and roast until all sides are black. Don't worry that you're burning them. This black skin will come off.

After the peppers are roasted, you have to steam them to cook them all the way through. Put the roasted peppers in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let steam for at least 15 minutes. Your peppers are going to look very cooked at this point. Don't worry if some of the color has changed. (The flesh on my purple peppers was actually an olive green color.)

Once your peppers cool down, open them up over the sink. (You'll notice a distinctly different and wonderful scent from each variety of pepper.) Take out the stem and seed core, then remove any additional seeds. Do not rinse the peppers under water -- you'll lose some of that wonderful oil and roasted flavor. The peppers may fall into pieces which is OK. Flip each piece over and you'll find that the skin -- charred and not charred -- easily peels off. Discard this skin.

If you're doing a platter, then set your roasted peppers into portions of now skinned and deseeded roasted peppers aside. If you're using them in a recipe, then prepare accordingly. Otherwise, cut them into strips or reasonable portions. I layered mine on a plate with fresh goat cheese pieces (thin slices about 1 inch by 1 inch). Alternate by color if you want or group each kind together. I then sprinkled fresh, desprigged thyme over the plate as well as a couple of grinds of black pepper and lemon-thyme salt. Drizzle EVOO over the entire business. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh herb, and Voila! An easy plate that looks like it took a lot longer than the 40 minutes it did. You can also chop roasted peppers for salads, dips, garnishes, and canapes.

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